Hanging Judge: Stop taking the easy way out

Soccer drama involving the wearing of isiphandla has elicited strong reactions
Soccer drama involving the wearing of isiphandla has elicited strong reactions

Players are not allowed to wear armbands during matches.

I was amazed by the number of people who contacted me regarding this issue.

Are players allowed to wear armbands and traditional wrist attire during a game?

The answer is very simple: No. I know it came up recently in a game in South Africa, where a player, for traditional and cultural reasons, wanted to wear them.

But the law is very clear on this issue.

Law 4 says: “A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous. All items of jewellery (such as necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, leather bands and rubber bands) are forbidden and must be removed. Using tape to cover jewellery is not permitted.”

What is permitted is/are:

“Non-dangerous protective equipment – for example, headgear, facemasks, and knee and arm protectors made of soft, lightweight padded materials – is permitted, as are goalkeepers’ caps and sports spectacles.”

Of course, it goes without saying that these items must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images, or advertising other than manufacturers’ logos.

Read: What happens when football rules reject cultural tradition?

Some people have also said that they have seen players in Europe wearing plastic/rubber armbands. The law is quite clear on this – and if they are wearing these items, then the referee is not doing his job and should be sanctioned by the powers that be.

In the past I’ve noticed some players, and even referees, wearing some sort of masking tape over their wedding ring, but this has now changed and is not allowed.

Players falling over at the slightest touch

I have to say that if there are two things that really get my blood boiling, it’s the sight of players falling over at the slightest touch by an opponent and the referee giving a free kick for that “foul”.

You can almost see it coming. A player is in control of the ball; he’s being boxed into a corner with no way out. He gets the slightest touch from the opponent and falls down like a ton of bricks. The referee takes the easy way out and gives a free kick sometimes – much to the annoyance of the opposition player, and rightly so.

A famous English former international player once said on live television that if a player gets touched, even slightly by an opponent, he has the right to go down. What kind of statement is that? What kind of message is that sending out, especially to very impressionable youngsters? Is he encouraging kids to cheat so that they will get a free kick?

The game today is ruined with cheating, diving and dishonesty, and there appears to be a winning mentality where it’s win at all costs – and we referees are contributing to that culture.
Errol Sweeney

While I don’t condone this kind of behaviour and, in fact, I would condemn it in the strongest possible terms, it’s even more annoying when I see match officials (referees and assistant referees) also condoning it by awarding free kicks.

Why are they allowing it to happen? It’s clear to everyone watching that a player has not been fouled. It’s also clear that the player with the ball has an expectation of being awarded a free kick when the opponent comes into close proximity.

Sometimes I think referees take the easy way out. It’s always easy to give a free kick to the defending team. That way, there’s no controversy, whereas if he allowed play to continue, the expectant player would feel aggrieved if he was dispossessed and a goal resulted.

So, I get back to my previous column of referees not having the guts and the backbone to do what is right and to hell with the consequences.

The game today is ruined with cheating, diving and dishonesty, and there appears to be a winning mentality where it’s win at all costs – and we referees are contributing to that culture.

Come on, refs, man up and do your job according to the Laws of the Game.


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